From the Committee for Servant Welfare to the High Master of the Second Landstead:
As detailed in the attached report, we were struck by the deplorable conditions at the House of Transformation, which were in such contrast to the pride and conscientious devotion to the work on the part of the Superintendent of the Institution. Unquestionably, he is dealing with a situation which is too complicated to be handled by any one institution administration. He is attempting to fill the need for three institutions: an institution for delinquents, one for the feeble-minded, and one for orphans, not to mention a hospital for those with tuberculosis. It was pathetic to find extremely unskilled officers and employees dealing with a task so tremendous. It was obvious that a group of well-meaning men were trying to operate an institution serving the Second Landstead, but without sufficient support from our landstead.
At present, the House of Transformation, although a private Institution, is almost entirely supported by funds from the treasury of the Second Landstead. We therefore recommend that the title of this property and the control thereof be vested in the Second Landstead. We believe that the Institution needs the services of a dietician, a psychiatrist, a physician, a dentist, and an adequate supply of trained instructors. We also recommend the appointment of servant staff, as soon as possible. We believe that this will add to rank-status pride and obtain better results, if those selected are properly qualified.
We suggest that the present Superintendent, who has faithfully performed his duties for thirty sun-cycles, be retired on a pension, and that a trained executive be appointed to succeed him.
In short, your Committee believes that the House of Transformation should be changed into a training school for servants, rather than a preparatory school for the Men's Penitentiary.
on behalf of the Committee
cc: Wm. Duncan, Superintendent of the House of Transformation.
The freight depot was not far from the school. If he turned his head, he could see the pleasantly shaped building which marked the passenger depot, but of course only masters and mastresses started their journeys from there. The train was sitting there now, puffing up dark clouds of smoke as it awaited its elite passengers.
He did not turn his head, though. He was standing with his legs apart, his hands behind his back in drill-inspection position, facing away from the school. Behind him, the high-toned chapel bell began to ring, calling the boys out of their beds.
He was thinking, not about the House of Transformation, but about the day on which he'd taken his fury and transformed it into speed to save the Supervisor. And then the inmates and officers and employees had worked together to save the Administration Building.
His mind wandered to the nightly sessions in the Little Dorm of learning to read and to speak properly and to do all the other things they needed to know in order to break their way out of this prison.
He'd never have been able to do it alone, no more than he could have fought the fire alone. Whatever his future held, that was the key: banding together with other servants – and any masters and mastresses who showed an interest in servants' welfare – to try to make his life better.
To make every servant's life better.
He felt a presence beside him. Without turning to look, he said, "I was beginning to think you weren't coming."
Trusty moved forward into Bat's view. He was gazing past Bat, at something behind him. He said, "Super woke me. Said you were wanting to say goodbye to me."
Bat nodded but said nothing further. The two of them stood facing each other for a minute, in a final moment of restful silence. Bat could see that Trusty looked tired, as though he had not slept overnight.
Finally, Bat said, "I'll visit you."
Trusty said simply, "Not likely, 'less you're in the habit of visiting the Men's Penitentiary. And even if I was staying here . . . Let me give you a last bit of advice, boy. Forget about this place."
Bat stared at Trusty. "Forget about it?"
"Right. Forget you were ever here. You don't want that new master of yours remembering you were once an inmate. Put all this away, get on with your life. Keep nothing from this time . . . except the promise you make to yourself that you'll never come back, certain."
Looking over his shoulder to follow Trusty's line of sight, Bat realized the older servant wasn't gazing at the House of Transformation. He was gazing to the south of it. At the cemetery.
"Here we go," said Trusty. Bat was startled out of his thoughts as Trusty turned around to flag down the train. The train stopped with a screech. No conductor emerged – naturally not. Jumping up onto the ladder on the side of the train, Trusty slammed open the door to the servants' car, then reached down and pulled Bat into the doorway.
For a moment, a brief moment, they stood there, side by side – Trusty on the ladder, Bat inside the train, holding arms with each other. Then Bat leaned over and gave Trusty a light kiss on the cheek.
"Zero," he whispered into Trusty's ear, and as Trusty let go to fall back onto the ground, Bat slipped the cloth into his hand. He left Trusty staring down at the pentagonal badge that said, "Teacher, Family Cottage Trustworthy."
The servants' car was empty. Bat picked a backless bench at random and sat down, dusting off the bench first with his hand, so as not to ruin his new suit, which, the Superintendent had assured him, "will remind you to keep up a respectable appearance and good manners, obedient to your new master."
The Super had said that during their brief conversation on the porch before dawn. Bat had spent all night worrying over what he had to say, and it had taken him several tries to attract the attention of the Super, who seemed much absorbed in his thoughts. But once Bat had made his proposal, all went easy.
"I'd already had on my mind the possibility of hiring servant staff," the Superintendent had assured Bat. As he spoke, the Super slipped into his dressing gown's pocket what appeared to be – from the gold seal upon it – the committee report that the transformatory had been awaiting. "And you're quite right: sending that bright young man away to the Men's Penitentiary would be a waste of good manpower that this school sorely needs. Yes, I like your idea of releasing him and then hiring him to work here. As for appointing him to be a Teacher . . . Well, making a servant an officer would not have occurred to me, I confess. You're quite a bright young man yourself, Servant Bat." And he shook Bat's arm, as though the two of them were equals, before fetching the Teacher's badge and handing it to Bat, with a few words about how Bat must be looking forward to his new work.
"It's not freedom, Trusty," Bat whispered to the emptiness of the servants' car. "Not for either of us. But it's the best that either of us is likely to get."
The train started forward with a jerk. Bat took a moment to blow his nose into his new handkerchief and to wipe his face free of tears. No ties to bind him fast, he had told Trusty on the first day . . . but he had not been able to keep from binding himself in friendship to Trusty.
And now that bond would be lost. Refusing the temptation to look out the window for one last glimpse of Trusty and the House of Transformation, Bat forced himself to stare straight ahead as the train gathered speed, transporting him to his future.